Freedom for Julian Assange as he turns 50

Journalist Julian Assange is still being held in a maximum-security prison in London. On 3 July, he will celebrate his 50th birthday behind bars and suffering ill in poor health. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns once again his politically motivated and prolonged detention and urges his immediate release.

A boat carrying supporters of jailed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sails down the river Thames. Credits: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

Julian Assange has been detained in the UK since April 2019, after seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The Australian journalist, WikiLeaks founder and IFJ press card holder was charged in the United States under the Espionage Act for WikiLeaks' 2010 publications of classified documents, notably on the US crimes during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

If convicted of espionage, Julian Assange faces 175 years in prison, but he continues to deny the charges.

In 2019, the United States requested his extradition. But on 4 January 2021, the British court decided not to extradite the journalist, arguing it would be oppressive for his mental health. 

Journalist Tim Dawson reported on the extradition hearings and on behalf of the NUJ and the IFJ.

The British judiciary then refused to release Julian Assange, fearing that he would flee. On 15 January 2021, the United States appealed against the decision not to extradite him, an appeal that was upheld by Joe Biden's government a few days later. Since then, the journalist and father of two children has remained in prison, awaiting the appeal  hearing for his extradition. There is currently no date for the new hearing.

According to his partner, lawyer Stella Morris, Julian Assange is in poor health. He is held under tight security with almost no access to visitors, and faces even greater isolation due to the pandemic. According to his lawyer and many press freedom and human rights organisations, he is not getting a fair trial either.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "We condemn once again the detention and prosecution of journalist and IFJ press card holder Julian Assange. Convicting Assange would set a precedent that would seriously undermine freedom of speech and the right to information. We call on the UK courts to immediately release Julian Assange and block his extradition to the US, where his life would be at serious risk.”